A small group of highly skilled mercenaries are brought together in France by an Irish operative to steal a mysterious briefcase. What follows is a modern action classic of the kind they sadly don't make any more…
Directed by John Frankenheimer and given an extensive script polish by David Mamet (under the pseudonym 'Richard Weisz'), Ronin dispenses with any extraneous material in order to drill down on the characters and action. The result is a thrilling, yet surprisingly sombre, throwback to the Euro-crime capers of the 1970s, with the sort of pedigree cast those films could only really dream of.
Then, of course, there's the action. Featuring astonishing, heart-in-mouth sequences of cars tearing around first Nice and then Paris, it's no wonder that Ronin is regularly (and rightly) hailed as boasting two of the greatest chases ever committed to celluloid.
But what really becomes apparent from watching Ronin again today is that it marked the end of an era. Not only was it Frankenheimer's penultimate film and one of De Niro's last great lead-role performances, Ronin is an action flick aimed explicitly at an adult audience – something that Hollywood now has next to no interest in as it keeps pandering to teenagers in the hunt for ever larger box office returns.
Picture: Ronin debuted on Blu-ray back in 2007 with a less-than-impressive MPEG-2 encode that did the film's moody photography very few favours. For this re-release, Arrow has undertaken a new restoration based on a 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative, with director of photography Robert Fraisse supervising the grading.
Where the older 1080p presentation was a largely inconsistent affair in every regard (from detailing to sharpness, grain levels to colour accuracy), this new release delivers a finely nuanced and entirely authentic 2.35:1 image that never looks anything less than pristine. Impressive.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: While the 2007 Blu-ray may have let itself down when it came to picture quality, it's DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack was another matter altogether. Understandably, Arrow has left this part of the package alone and – despite being 20 years old – the film's sound design still dazzles when it cuts loose in the big action set-pieces. Chapter 5's ambush and Chapter 9's chase through Paris provide the real standout moments.
Audio rating: 4.5/5
Extras: Another area where Arrow's disc triumphs over the original Fox/MGM Blu-ray, which was barebones. Here, Ronin fans get a host of new and archival extras, with highlights including a director's commentary, a brand-new interview with Robert Fraisse, a 1994 episode of Cinefile with Quentin Tarantino discussing De Niro's career and a fairly brutal alternate ending.
Extras rating: 4/5
We say: A magnificent Blu-ray upgrade for this home cinema favourite. Track it down!
Ronin, Arrow Video, Region A/B BD, £25
HCC VERDICT: 4.5/5
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